Today we ask that you ease up on the pressure.

Ease up on the pressure.

Most people live out their days as if they were in a movie or TV show, where the stakes are high and the clock is ticking.  And yet most people are not dealing with spies, or political intrigue, or tense courtroom dramas.  Most people are just going to the office or the supermarket.  They are picking up their children from school, and paying bills.

Even so, they are tense and wound up, pulse pounding — as if they were on a mission of global importance, with villains out to get them.

That is because the human mind has a very poor sense of perspective, when it comes to dramas.  It does not matter what the scale of the drama is.  Talking to the customer service representative is as pressured as being interrogated by the police.  Everything is high stakes, even if it really is inconsequential.

This poor sense of perspective is easy to observe in small children, for whom getting the cookie or the toy can easily become a high stakes drama, worthy of screams, rage, and throwing yourself on the floor.  It is okay for toddlers to have a poor sense of perspective — they are just toddlers.  The problem arises then the parent also loses all sense of perspective and screams back at the toddler.  When this happens, the toddlers learn that grown-ups throw tantrums too, that tantrums are a valid way of asserting control.  So educated, the child grows into a tantrum-throwing adult.  Only instead of throwing tantrums over cookies and toys, he throws tantrums over traffic jams and taxes.

Ease up.  Ease up.  Put things in proper perspective.  It is fine to feel your emotions, and healthy to do so.  But when drama escalates in your mind, when the body feels stressed and tense, then it necessary to give yourself a “time out.”  Step away from the tantrum-inducing situation.  Focus on becoming calm, so that you can see things clearly.  

Generally speaking, whatever is going on is not a high stakes drama.  It is true that some situations are more dramatic than others — dealing with true emergencies, life-threatening events, and so on.  But such situations are not everyday and common, for most people.

Consider everyday, mundane situations around which you feel a great deal of stress and pressure.  How can you ease up on this pressure?  How can you put things in perspective, so that what is happening doesn’t feel like a life-threatening emergency?

This is done by gently questioning your beliefs about whatever is happening.  Usually in a drama, there is a strong attachment to things working out in a particular way.  You must meet the deadline.  You must win this person’s approval.  The meeting must go well.  You need this electronic device to work right now.  You need to hear back from this person right now.  And so on, and so on.  All these things people get very worked up about.

When you are feeling pressure in these situations, when you feel cranky and on the verge of a tantrum — take a step back.  At the very least, take ten slow, deep breaths.  Go for a walk, if you can.  Do whatever you can to calm down your physical body.  Maybe you just need a drink of water, or a bathroom break.  Create some space in which you can gather your wits.  Give yourself a “time out,” so that you can regain clarity before you send that text, or make the remark you will regret.

When you feel calmer, then ask yourself, is there any way to make this situation less stressful?  How can I ease up on the pressure?  How can this feel better?

Almost always when you invite the mind to be helpful in this way, an answer will appear.  There may be a barrage of arguments, at first: it can’t be any less stressful!  But if you give the mind some space the protesting will usually subside after a while, and you will perceive a less stressful path.

For example, let’s say you are playing a game — any kind of game.  It is meant to be fun, but it is not feeling fun.  It feels stressful and pressured.  Perhaps you wish to impress your opponent with your skill, but you are making many mistakes.  Perhaps you are a very competitive person, and losing triggers you.  Perhaps you are an athlete and winning or losing has real significance.  Perhaps you have bet money on the game.

So how can this be less pressured?  Well, quite simply, in this scenario, you must recognize that the world will not end if you lose the game.  This is true even for a professional athlete.  The world will not end if you lose the game. 

Once you really accept this, the game is less pressured.  It can be fun.  You are playing to play, not playing to win.  Ironically, you have a much greater chance of success in any game if you play from this position.  

This is true for almost all everyday stressful scenarios.  The world will not end if you do not get the thing you are attached to getting.  Just like the toddler’s world does not end if he does not get the toy or the candy.  This is the key to ending tantrums.  Relax.  The world is not going to end.

The more you clench and tighten up around things, the less likely it is for situations to work out well in any case.  This is obvious in romantic pursuits, where feelings of pressure dull desire.

So even if you live in a society that promotes the story that a high stress, pressured lifestyle is the only way to be successful — this does not mean you have to live that way.  Societies have promoted many crazy beliefs.  People have believed in witch burnings and slavery, genocide and the healthy properties of cigarettes.  Some people still believe in holy wars.

True freedom in this life lies in freedom from cultural conditioning.  Just because the people around you believe certain things and live in a certain way, does not mean you have to.

If everyone eased up on the pressure and put things in proper perspective, there would be no holy wars.